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Why is Old Workers' Labor Market More Volatile? Unemployment Fluctuations over the Life-Cycle

  • Hairault, Jean-Olivier


    (University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

  • Langot, François


    (University of Le Mans)

  • Sopraseuth, Thepthida


    (University of Cergy-Pontoise)

Since the last recession, it is usually argued that older workers are less affected by the economic downturn because their unemployment rate rose less than the one of prime-age workers. This view is a myth: older workers are more sensitive to the business cycle. We document volatilities of worker flows and hourly wage across age groups on CPS data. We find that old worker's job flows are characterized by a higher responsiveness to business cycles than their younger counterparts. In contrast, their wage cyclicality is lower than prime-age workers'. Beyond this empirical contribution, we show that a life-cycle Mortensen & Pissarides (1994) model is well suited to explain these facts: older workers' shorter work-life expectancy endogenously reduces their outside options and leads their wages to be less sensitive to the business cycle. Thus, in a market where wage adjustments are small, quantities vary a lot: this is the case for older workers, whereas the youngest behave like infinitively-lived agents. Our theoretical results point out that Shimer (2005)'s view on the MP model is consistent with prime-age workers' labor market while aging endogenously introduces real wage rigidities, allowing to match what we observe for old workers, without specific assumptions as in Hagendorn & Manovskii (2008).

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 8076.

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Length: 61 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8076
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  1. Guido Menzio & Irina A. Telyukova & Ludo Visschers, 2012. "Directed Search over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 17746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Laffont,Jean-Jacques (ed.), 1995. "Advances in Economic Theory," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521484596.
  3. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 2008. "Two Questions about European Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(1), pages 1-29, 01.
  4. Arnaud Chéron & Jean‐Olivier Hairault & François Langot, 2011. "Age‐Dependent Employment Protection," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(557), pages 1477-1504, December.
  5. Chéron, Arnaud & Hairault, Jean-Olivier & Langot, François, 2008. "Life-Cycle Equilibrium Unemployment," IZA Discussion Papers 3396, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Robert Shimer, 2005. "The Cyclical Behavior of Equilibrium Unemployment and Vacancies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 25-49, March.
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  8. Elsby, Michael & Smith, Jennifer C. & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2011. "The Role of Worker Flows in the Dynamics and Distribution of UK Unemployment," IZA Discussion Papers 5784, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  32. Jean-Olivier Hairault & Francois Langot & Thepthida Sopraseuth, 2010. "Distance to Retirement and Older Workers' Employment: The Case for Delaying the Retirement Age," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(5), pages 1034-1076, 09.
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